Flashback thanks to Facebook

Mr. Leonard, my Junior High School band teacher popped up in the People You May Know box on Facebook. Wow. Just seeing his name and picture brought back so many memories!

Under his guidance, we learned our chosen instruments more deeply, and we expanded beyond them. I was already playing clarinet so I also learned Soprano Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, even Contra-Bass Clarinet, which was taller than me at the time.

After that we expanded beyond our instrument family, and I learned to play the Oboe.

He even commissioned a symphony for us! It felt so amazing to play the world premiere of a symphony as a young teen.

We played classical music and popular music. Every time I hear Handel’s Water Music or The Theme from Star Wars I think of Mr. Leonard.

Not just about the music

He wasn’t just a teacher of music and band, (which he was amazing at) but also a teacher of habits and skills and self-esteem and community and doing more than you ever thought you could do.

We had a chair system. Regularly we had blind competitions where we’d play pieces we’d practiced or sometimes, as I recall, sight read music. The system taught us fairness and friendly competition, the payoff for practicing, the consequences of not practicing.

He expected a lot from us, and gave a lot to us, and we did our best. Well, except when there was a substitute teacher.

All this in a Junior High School music program, in an under-funded district, in a community that was losing its blue-collar industry and shifting between rural and suburban.

As I think about it now, I wonder where the funding came for all of those instruments, the symphony, the space. I think of all the time and effort and love Mr. Leonard put into the program and all of us students throughout the years.

After Junior High, my interests shifted. I stopped playing the clarinet, (my niece is now playing it in her school band) but I never forgot everything I learned from Mr. Leonard, especially how to teach what you really care about.

Thank you for teaching Mr. Leonard.

Do you have a teacher you’d like to thank? Someone who made an impression on you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Photo credit: Clarinet – Rings by APMus on Flickr
There must be a photo of me playing clarinet that looks like it’s been through an instagram filter, but in the interest of time, I’m using this great shot of a clarinet instead.



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